Roast pork belly: Pig done right
Not only is this recipe a different and completely delicious take on a roast dinner, it’s also unbelievably easy. It’s tastiness to easy-to-make ratio is even more favourable than the Barbecue Beef variety of Super Noodles.
It’s essentially a recipe from Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall’s River Cottage Every Day book. It’s one of our favourites because it’s entirely fuss free.
As Hugh points out, pork belly is easy to cook because it’s fatty – which makes it very hard to dry it out. We turned the meat on its side to baste it occasionally, but made sure we didn’t baste the skin because we want that to go as crispy as can be.
And, given that it’s a fatty cut of pig, we’d recommend throwing the idea of healthy eating out for the day. As such, don’t hold back on the seasoning on the skin: salt works wonders when you want crackly, flavoursome crackling.
When you’re buying your pork belly (we got ours from the Waitrose butcher counter, shame on us for not going to an independent butcher), ask for the thick end of the pork belly. Six ribs worth of belly should feed four according to Hugh, but we got a bit extra and upped the coriander and fennel seeds slightly as a result. We made it on Sunday, and we’re still eating tremendous pork sandwiches on Thursday, which is fine by us.
Get the butcher to score the skin. If you can’t, just cut some slashes into the skin with a tough knife. Hugh recommends a Stanley knife, but please don’t use the one that cut out your mouldy bathroom sealant.
Right, here goes – get this in the oven and count the minutes until you can eat it. We served it with mashed potatoes and greens – which consisted of leeks, savoy cabbage and kale – also one of Hugh’s recipes.
Nearly forgot: make your own apple sauce. Why? Because it’s another recipe where the tastiness to easiness ratio makes you look way better than you actually are.
For the pork
Six ribs worth of thick-end pork belly
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Loads of salt and pepper
A squirt of olive oil
For the greens
1 savoy cabbage
4 handfuls of kale
Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
Put the spices (3 teaspoons of coriander seeds and 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds) in a pestle and bash them up with the mortar. You’re not looking for powder, just make sure they crack to release their flavours.
Grab your meat and check the skin is scored. If it’s not, get a sharp, robust knife and score away. It’s quite hard to cut because a pig has thick skin, but you just need to open it up.
Season the skin with plenty of salt and pepper, and then rub most of the bashed up spices onto the skin as well – making sure you spread it as evenly as you can and really rub it into the score cuts.
Get a baking tray and squirt a tiny bit of oil into it, to stop the spices burning.
Chuck the remaining spices into the tin and distribute evenly.
Whack your pig belly into the roasting tin and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, turn down the heat to 180ºC and cook for two hours.
(Now would be a good time to chop up your greens, peel your spuds etc).
After two hours, take it out of the oven and check how it’s getting on. You want to skin to be really crispy. If it’s not quite there, crank up the temperature super high and put the joint back in for five minutes at a time, until the crackling is crispy enough to dislodge your mother’s fillings.
When it’s done, let the meat rest for 20 minutes.
Remove the skin before you carve it. If you have a little helper, perhaps they could break up the crackling into small bites while you carve up your creation.
Now get your pig on the table and pig out.